The Pontchartrain Beach Skyride was a popular 1970s-80s attraction.
Pontchartrain Beach Skyride
Photo of the “Skyride” at the Pontchartrain Beach amusement park.The attraction was a classic ski lift-style ride that carried folks from one end of the midway to another. The photo shows the elevated walkway that led out to the sand beach along the lake. A car traveling in the opposite direction carries three girls wearing jeans. To the right is the main concessions stand. In the background stands the Zephyr, the park’s large, wooden roller coaster.
Harry Batt, Jr., built his original amusement park along Bayou St. John in 1929. He moved it to Milneburg, at Elysian Fields and the Lakefront, in 1939. The Works Progress Administration (WPA) built a bath house at that location. They solicited bids for an operator to run the bath house and expand the site. Batt did just that. The amusement park stood between two large military facilities, NAS New Orleans to the west and an Army facility to the East. The navy base is now the University of New Orleans, and the Army base is now the Lake Oaks subdivision.
Main concession stand at night.
The main buildings of the park were in the Streamline Moderne style, a variant of Art Deco. The main concession stand sold JAX Beer, along with “Coney Island Hot Dogs” and other food items. The photo above shows the night lighting of the building.
The beach midway at night.
The Beach presented a symphony of incandescent and neon lights at night. The lights enticed park-goers to the rides and, naturally, to the food and beer. This photo shows the entrance to the “Wild Maus” coaster, a maze-like ride with many sharp turns and short, steep drops. The multi-disc light tower sits atop another concession stand and indoor arcade combination.
“Pontchartrain Beach” section of the Jazzland amusement park, courtesy Abandoned New Orleans.
This photo, courtesy of Abandoned New Orleans, presents the ruins of the re-created “Pontchartrain Beach” at the Jazzland/Six Flags amusement park in New Orleans East. The park closed after incurring flooding and damage in Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Maison Blanche Halloween wasn’t a big deal. Christmas was the big deal.
Atrium at Maison Blanche, Lake Forest, mid-1970s. T-P photo.
Maison Blanche Halloween
Interior shot of the Maison Blanche store in The Plaza at Lake Forest. The store opened in 1974. The store incorporated many of the design features of the one in Clearview Shopping Center in Metairie. This photo features the open-air center atrium. The escalators stood on either side, with the Fine Jewelry department on the ground floor. The mall-side entrance to the store stood to the photographer’s left. First floor departments included cosmetics, jewelry, candy, juniors and menswear. Retailers always believed menswear should be easily accessible, on the ground floor.
“You’ll be a sleeping beauty in dreamy sleepwear by Gilead…short waltz length nylon tricot gowns with matching coats…” – women’s sleepwear, items a husband or boyfriend find difficult to buy as gifts. So, appeal to the ladies directly, before the Christmas ad onslaught.
This ad, from the Times-Picayune, on 31-October-1978, is a great example of how seriously Halloween was a part of the chain’s Fall marketing. Yes, there’s nothing in the ad for spooky season. That’s because Halloween is merely a blip on the radar. The focus for department stores like MB was always the post-Thanksgiving shopping season. While stores like Spirit Halloween, Party City, discounters like K-Mart, and the old five-and-dimes offered what you needed for Halloween, MB and its competitors didn’t bother. Setting up for Halloween required taking space from multiple departments. The managers of those departments and the buyers they worked for balked at disrupting the holiday mojo. September heralded the “Pre-Christmas” promotions. Those sales carried on through November. The day after Thanksgiving marked the formal start of the Christmas season. To set up displays for special merchandise at the end of October, only to break them down days later made no sense.
Halloween in Men’s Suits
So, Maison Blanche Halloween wasn’t a thing. In fact, I took the day off when this ad ran in 1978. The “Haunted House” we held at the Lambda Chi Alpha (University of New Orleans) house in Gentilly needed more help than the Men’s department at MB Clearview. Since we worked on commission, my colleagues certainly didn’t miss me on a slow night.
Hope your Halloween was a good one! This post goes up a day late, but that’s OK, because we’re still in the middle of All Hallows Eve, All Saints, and All Souls.
Maison Blanche Thanksgiving weekend was always hectic.
Maison Blanche Thanksgiving
Ad from Thanksgiving Weekend, 1978. MB ran this ad on Sunday, 26-November-1978, after the madness of Friday and Saturday were over. Holiday season 1978 was my first at MB Clearview. I spent that weekend glued to one of those old electro-mechanical cash registers the store used at the time.
The Post-Thanksgiving sales in the Maison Blanche Men’s Department included mostly grab-and-go items. Casual shirts, slacks, some jackets and coats. Mom would hit the stores while dad slept in or went fishing. So, Mom picked up stuff for dad that didn’t require his presence. That gave her time to explore the various ladies departments. From the employee perspective, it was easy. The lines stached up a bit, so shoppers didn’t come up for conversation.
Selling in 1978
While individual/personal calculators grew in popularity, retail transactions in 1978 had not changed for forty years. Stores shifted from mechanical to electro-mechanical cash register. Credit card transactions remained the same. At MB, store charges (using one’s New Orleans Shoppers’ credit card) rung up on the regular sales ticket. Slide the ticket under the printer in the register. Push the old-style keys for department and item number. Cash, credit, or bank card. The sale rung up, then you’d make an imprint of the card, in the body of the sales ticket. Both store and bank cards required a phone call to verify the credit line, if the purchase was over a set amount. The approval process hadn’t changed much since the 1950s. Credit staff at the Canal Street store answered phones from downstairs and the suburban stores. Those phones had super-long cords (yes, folks, we’re talking about phones with cords). The salesperson at the register gave the card information. The credit staffers looked up the account numbers, calculated the customer’s limit, then approved or declined the purchase.
Suit separates for men
The big ad for Sunday, 26-Nov-1978 for MB presented men’s suit separates from Haggar. “Choose them by the piece: a sport coat, a vest, the slack,, or choose them all for a 3 piece vested look for under 100.00.” These pieces sold well with men whose measurements crossed over suit sizes. The price was right for younger men, as well. These items appear in the Sunday paper. While most people bought the Haggar stuff and brought it home to dad, some folks came in for alterations. We didn’t do alterations over the weekend, but Monday evening after was just fine.
Southern Railway Southerner train ran from New Orleans to New York City.
Southern Railway Southerner
Two EMD E-6 “A” units pull the Southern Railway Southerner train, southbound over Lake Pontchartrain. The photo is undated, but likely from the late 1940s/early 1950s. The Southerner operated from 1941 to 1970. The train used Pullman-Standard cars, delivered to Southern in March, 1941. By 1970, ridership on the Southerner and its companion route, the Crescent, dwindled. Southern Railway combined the two routes. They re-named the combined service the “Southern Crescent.” The Southern Crescent ran from 1970 until Amtrak took over passenger service in 1971. The Southern train became the Amtrak Crescent.
Southerner vs Crescent
There were two main differences between the Southerner and its older companion, the Crescent. First was the route. While the Crescent used a coastal route, the Southerner went more inland through Alabama and Mississippi.
- Atlanta, GA
- Anniston, AL
- Birmingham, AL
- Tuscaloosa, AL
- Meridian, MS
- Laurel, MS
- Hattiesburg, MS
- Picayune, MS
- Slidell, LA
- New Orleans, LA
- Atlanta, GA
- West Point, GA
- Auburn, AL
- Montgomery, AL
- Flomaton, AL
- Mobile, AL
- Pascagoula, MS
- Biloxi, MS
- Edgewater Park, MS
- Bay St. Louis, MS
- New Orleans, LA
(note: this is from a 1950 timetable; some stops omitted.)
The Southern Railway Southerner used Terminal Station on Canal and Basin Streets. The New Orleans Terminal Company built the station in 1908. New Orleans and Northeastern Railroad trains used this station prior to that railroad’s acquisition by Southern. Southern shared Terminal Station with the Gulf, Mobile, and Ohio Railroad. The Southerner crossed Lake Pontchartrain via Southern’s “five-mile bridge.”
The Crescent crossed Lake Pontchartrain via the Rigolets bridge. It arrived at the Louisville and Nashville Station at the head of Canal Street. That train’s final leg traveled over L&N tracks, through Alabama and Mississippi. After 1954, both trains arrived and departed from Union Passenger Terminal, on Loyola Avenue.
Use of other railroad’s right-of-way forced the consolidation of Southerner and Crescent in 1970. L&N discontinued passenger service that year. Southern Railway Southerner’s route became the Southern Crescent’s. The combined train operated exclusively on Southern track.
The Pullman-Standard consists:
- Baggage-dormitory-coach (22 seats)
- 52-seat coach
- 56-seat coach
- Dining car
- Two additional 56-seat coaches
- Tavern-lounge-observation car.
Prior to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the 52-seat coach was partitioned/segregated. Sleeper service was added to the Southern Railway Southerner in 1951.
Norfolk Southern Lake Pontchartrain Bridge is the longest train bridge in the world.
Norfolk Southern Lake Pontchartrain Bridge
Rail operations around New Orleans require crossing over water. Lots of water. Eastbound trains traveled over land. They crossed the Chef Menteur Pass and Rigolets Pass. This lengthened trips. So, crossing Lake Pontchartrain rather than going around it made sense, but it was a challenge. The New Orleans and Northeastern Railroad accepted the challenge in 1883. The NO&NE was incorporated in 1868 as the Mandeville and Sulphur Springs Railroad. It became the NO&NE in 1871. The railroad completed track construction in 1883. William Harris Hardy, a NO&NE vice-president, proposed the bridge in 1883. The railroad built the Lake Pontchartrain bridge the following year. Hardy rode the first train across the bridge in November, 1884.
Swamp on either side
The bridge spans 5.8 miles of open water, but its length covered an additional 15 miles of marsh. The southern approach required 12 miles of bridge and an additional 3 miles on the north end. So, the bridge is the longest railroad bridge in the world. In 1896, the railroad modified the bridge. They built embankments on both sides. So, the bridge itself only spans the 5.8 miles across the lake.
NO&NE to Southern Railway
Southern Railway acquired NO&NE in 1916. While it was part of the Southern Railway system, it maintained a bit of its original identity. Equipment operating on NO&NE carried the original railroad’s sub-lettering, below the Southern Railway identification.
In 1969, Southern Railway fully merged NO&NE into their Alabama Great Southern subsidiary. NO&NE ceased to exist. Southern Railway merged in 1990 to become Norfolk Southern. Norfolk Southern owns/operates the bridge today.
Hurricane Katrina wiped out 5 of the 5.8 miles of track on the bridge in 2005. So,NS immediately began repairs to this critical connection. The first train after the hurricane crossed the lake sixteen days later.
Trains on the bridge
Freight trains regularly cross the bridge daily. The Amtrak Crescent (#19 and #20) use the bridge to travel from New Orleans to New York City’s Penn Station daily as well.
Fishing Shack in the Rigolets
Fishing Shack in the Rigolets, 1943, by Jane Smith Ninas
1943 – Fishing Shack in the Rigolets
I spent some time this afternoon, looking in a couple of photo collections for local Radio Shacks. It’s part of a new project, a Facebook group for sharing memories of New Orleans stores. The name of the group is New Orleans Shopping, so please feel free to click through and join. So, I didn’t come up with any Radio Shack photos right off, but I did come up with a lot of “shacks”. This painting caught my eye, thought I’d share.
Fishing Camps around New Orleans
We’ve got fishing camps (no Realtor is going to call your grandpa’s camp a “shack”) all over Southeast Louisiana. Some are simple, others are palaces out in the wetlands. The Rigolets pass, along with Chef Menteur Pass, are the two bodies of water connecting Lake Pontchartrain with Lake Borgne. Lots of good fishing and crabbing out along those passes.
Ninas’ painting includes many of the components one would expect in and around a local fishing camp. It’s raised on pilings. Around the shack are various dockside items for keeping and maintaining small fishing boats The shack is on the ground, next to the pass. While most fishing camps on the lake are over water, this shack is on the shore..Usually, a pier connects the camp to shore. Owners of fishing camps in te 1930s-1940s likely kept their boats by the camp. So, there’s a hoist behind the shack, where the boat could be raised. They could work on the boat while out of the water. It’s also a good way to secure the boat, raise it up, then lock down the hoist. These days, it’s more likely the owner puts their boat on a trailer and bring it home.
Jane Smith Ninas
Jane Ninas, nee Smith, is the artist. She married artist Paul Ninas, in 1933, but then left him and married photographer Walker Evans. She passed away in 2005, at the age of 92.